Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mother Tongue” as Want to Read:
Mother Tongue
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mother Tongue

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  341 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
"It is a great beauty of a book, and I am so proud of you for standing with and for the disappeared. A sister, a lover, a witness."
--Alice Walker

Mary is nineteen and living alone in Albuquerque. Adrift in the wake of her mother's death, she longs for something meaningful to take her over. Then José Luis enters her life. A refugee from El Salvador and its bloody civil war,
...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 12th 1997 by One World/Ballantine (first published January 1st 1990)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mother Tongue, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mother Tongue

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Velvetink
score! 50c op shop find today.

Lyrical & poetic, it's like silk and barb wire caressing your heart. Brings to life the heartache of refugees from El Salvador and the war there in the 80's. Based partly on the authors experiences helping the underground railroad of refugees out of El Salvador, it's an easy and quick read. Contains poetry from various Latin Americans and is written via the voices of several characters and three generations and at it's heart is love and justice. Most of the deta
...more
The Awdude
Oct 04, 2010 The Awdude rated it it was ok
Mostly this book is about the El Salvadorian civil war, for the prolonged duration and extreme violence of which the U.S., of course, was primarily responsible. There's some nice prose here; by "some" I mean a little bit; and Martinez does bring genuine heart to such a heartbreaking subject, there's no doubt about that, but she also frames it in one of the sloppiest narratives that I've read in a long time. It's the story of a romantic idealist, Mary/Maria, who falls head over heels in love with ...more
Jim
Apr 21, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it
To anyone interested in El Salvador and the Sanctuary movement, I enthusiastically recommend this novella. A New Mexican poet and journalist who was once jailed for her alleged participation in smuggling Central American refugees, Martinez has written an often lyrical, poetic story of a young woman (Maria) falling in love with a Salvadoran refugee (Jose Luis, a divinity student of liberation-theology bent) and dealing with the emotions and consequences engendered by that relationship (as well as ...more
Michael Blackmore
Mar 07, 2013 Michael Blackmore rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Despite a bit of a rough start I really enjoyed this book. I initially read it because it dealt with the turbulent times in the 1980s with the US supporting horrific acts by oppressive governments in parts of Central America (and supporting equally horrific terrorist groups in other parts) and the community of activists in the US working on solidarity issues.

The beginning was difficult because it was told through the eyes of a clearly troubled woman and the self involved nature of it caused it
...more
Πάνος Τουρλής
Ένα από τα ωραιότερα τρυφερά μυθιστορήματα που έχω διαβάσει. Έρωτας μεταξύ Μεξικάνας και πρόσφυγα του Ελ Σαλβαδόρ στις ΗΠΑ. Χωρίς πλοκή ιδιαίτερη, χωρίς ευθύγραμμη ροή, με αφηγήσεις της Μαίρης-Μαρίας, του πρόσφυγα, της φίλης τους και του γιου τους. Πώς γνωρίστηκαν, τι αισθάνθηκαν, πώς δόθηκαν ο ένας στις αγκαλιές του άλλου. Πώς αγαπήθηκαν, τι σημαίνει έρωτας και συναίσθημα για τον καθένα, τι αγώνα είχε η Μαρία να φέρει τον πρόσφυγα στην πραγματικότητα, να σταματήσει να φοβάται και να αγχώνεται κ ...more
Alex
Nov 01, 2014 Alex rated it did not like it
I tried to find some redeeming features in this book, and I just couldn't. None. The narrator is absolutely insufferable. It's like reading 200 pages of a particularly delusional, self-obsessed teenage girl's diary- which is essentially what this novel is, except that Martinez is trying to use it as a vehicle for commenting on the El Salvadorian civil war and the treatment of refugees in the USA. Unfortunately, she doesn't actually gives the reader any information about those things except throu ...more
Aime
Oct 08, 2015 Aime rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The beautiful lyrical prose is so haunting as she retells her love for a man that was both torn and made by war. The way the book is narrated through a series of journal entries, letters and recipes make it even more real.

The story touches on El Salvador's bloody civil war and the rise of Liberation theology in the Catholic church.

I also love that Jose Luis deals with his pain in realistic ways and I love when we get to read his letters. It gives us an insight into understan
...more
Patti
Apr 19, 2015 Patti added it
Recommends it for: definitely the romantics, and those who appreciate stories of love.
Shelves: favorites
although maria's perspective keeps jumping one moment from the past and then back to the present, i appreciate her sentiments. i bet most of us who have fallen in love at some point would relate to all those roller coaster of emotions she had for jose luis. i also liked that the reader was given a glimpse of jose luis' perspective thanks to few journal entries that he wrote.

i'll forgive the inconsistencies in terms of who maria is addressing to, as well as the somewhat confusing timeline (or ma
...more
Elaine
May 23, 2015 Elaine rated it really liked it
Set against the backdrop of the 1980s sanctuary movement in New Mexico, Demetria Martinez tells a tender, funny and politically packed love story between 19-year-old Maria and the mysterious Jose Luis, who arrives from El Salvador needing a new home, new identity and safety. As he gains a foothold in his new life, eventually speaking out publicly about the brutal war in his homeland and U.S. complicity in it (this was the Reagan era...) she romanticizes him, and what she imagines of his past --- ...more
suz
May 10, 2007 suz rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fictional story of of characters strongly influenced by war-ravaged Central American country
Reviewer: John Phillips "johnphillips61" (Plano, TX USA)

You can tell the author is a poet. This story was beautifully written, insightful and certainly rang true. When I finished reading it I felt I had gained a new perspective about how it must be for people who have their homeland torn apart by war. They love their homes, so the answer isn't just fleeing to freedom and safety. For some, there just is no answer. This book turned on new lights for me and moved as well as frustrated me. We can't
...more
Ruth
May 30, 2008 Ruth rated it really liked it
Shelves: recently-read
Demetria Martinez is going to be my workshop instructor at the Wm. Joiner Center, so I was happy to be able to read a couple of her books in anticipation. This novel became more compelling to me the longer I read, as the young Chicana protagonist matures in spite of herself in the process of loving & losing a Salvadoran refugee being sheltered by the Sanctuary movement in the early 1980s. The story gains surprising depth & resonance--as I finished I felt exalted.

Martinez is a wonderful p
...more
Irma Fox
Jun 29, 2016 Irma Fox rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ron
May 14, 2015 Ron rated it it was amazing
A wonderful story, beautifully written, and bursting with love and compassion. The novel revolves around the civil war in El Salvador during the 1980's in which mass atrocities were committed by U.S. backed Salvadorian death squads. It is not all political as the book delves into the human wreckage in different ways. The longing for love, meaning, and personal fulfillness are also important elements that are explored.

An unforgettable book.
Fabiola
Jun 07, 2011 Fabiola rated it really liked it
sweet sweet fast read ... she writes with her heart in her hand.

her stuff is very familiar, the fiction story is about a southwest chicana enamorada de un salvadoreno /perdida en el amor/ se encuentra after having a son and is on her own.


This book did spark interest in her poetry collection ..
Estela Anders
Sep 23, 2015 Estela Anders rated it liked it
A book about uprooted people trying to cope with the weight of their wounds ( the obvious and the hidden, inflicted by war or by loss), using each other to keep afloat. The language is beautiful as is the vivid descriptions of the pain of culture clash, exile, duty and secrets that can't be dealt with until named.
Kathryn Shumate
Nov 13, 2013 Kathryn Shumate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
This book was amazing. True, there are parts I can't relate to, but there are so many I can. I read this book because it was assigned in my literature class. I'm so very grateful that it was. I would go so far to say that this is the best book I've read all year.
Brittany
Mar 16, 2016 Brittany rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
3.5 ending was engrossing but many parts were written in a way that I found difficult to understand what the writer was trying to say.
Maret
Jan 14, 2008 Maret rated it really liked it
This book really helped me imagine life in the Southwest of the U.S. and how unofficial Central American refugees might feel when living in the U.S. undocumented. It was pretty romantic too!
Kelly
Nov 21, 2012 Kelly rated it really liked it
Read this if you seek a pulpy, feminine maturation tale. Mother Tongue explores love with spiritual and political grit.
Rus Funk
May 18, 2013 Rus Funk rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
What a nice surprise! A fabulous and delicate story in and of itself but which also examines a the election Salvador civil war and the real cost in human terms. Read this one!
Julie Aguilar
Jun 09, 2015 Julie Aguilar rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written novel that is much more than a love story. It explores the complexity of refugee identity while commenting on the social, political fabric of institutions.
Broadsnark
Apr 02, 2011 Broadsnark rated it really liked it
Good story and good intro to the civil war in el Salvador and the sanctuary movement.
Vanessa Largie
Sep 25, 2015 Vanessa Largie rated it it was amazing
Stunning. Just stunning. Have read it twice. The story lives on in my heart.
Jana
Jan 02, 2009 Jana rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Marisol
Ah.. New Mexico, refugees from El Salvador, and the US Government all mixed in with a little Spanish flavor.
Irene Gonzales
Nov 03, 2016 Irene Gonzales rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, brought back memories of stories I'd heard about what was happening in El Salvador, this book just made it more real.
Jenyne
Jun 11, 2008 Jenyne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sherry, Janice, and anyone interested in history
Recommended to Jenyne by: Stephanie
This is an incredible story about a refugee from El Salvador. It is in English and is beautifully written and desperately tragic.
Eileen Sam
Jan 04, 2010 Eileen Sam rated it really liked it
Super beautifully written and I like that it's kinda of like a political love story...excellent sensory detail of culture as well.
Chelsea Marissa Baeza
Phenomenal Read

One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. I know I will be re-reading this book for years to come.
Sabri
Jan 10, 2014 Sabri rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-college
It wasn't as bad as I expected. Easy to read and entertaining enough.
Mario Ascencio
Oct 15, 2012 Mario Ascencio rated it it was ok
I was disappointed with the first 100 pages. It dealt too much with the woman falling in love...yawn. Parts three, four, and five were much more interesting to me.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood
  • The Rain God
  • Lost in Transmission
  • Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma
  • Martín & Meditations on the South Valley
  • Flash House
  • They Call Me Mad Dog!: A Story for Bitter, Lonely People
  • Face of an Angel
  • Out of the Black Shadows: The Amazing Transformation of Stephen Lungu
  • Emplumada (Pitt Poetry Series)
  • Occupied America: A History of Chicanos
  • Grits
  • Drink Cultura: Chicanismo
  • The Deposition of Father McGreevy
  • George Washington Gomez: A Mexicotexan Novel

Share This Book



No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“You see, I am good at filling in blanks, at seeing meaning where there may have been none at all. In this way I get very close to the truth. Or closer still to illusion.” 0 likes
More quotes…